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South America World Cup qualifying: A look ahead

KakaMascherano (Reuters)

By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN

Just when the dust has settled on one of the more memorable rounds in South American World Cup qualifying, up come another round of matches that will surely have fans in euphoria or depression at the end of Wednesday night.

A wounded Argentina, a reignited Colombia, a desperate Ecuador, a shocked Uruguay and a nervous Venezuela are battling for the final two spots in CONMEBOL's qualifying table with Brazil already qualified and Paraguay and Chile all but assured of a spot in South Africa next year.

Argentina (22 pts) sits in the coveted fourth-placed spot but has Colombia and Ecuador (both at 20 pts) as well as Venezuela and Uruguay (both at 18 pts) hot on its trail. In the end, it looks like four teams will duke it out for that final playoff spot against a CONCACAF rival in November's playoff series.

Here's a brief preview of Wednesday's 16th round of matches:

BOLIVIA v. ECUADOR, 3pm ET

An almost-eliminated Bolivia host an Ecuadorean side who are vying for their third straight World Cup appearance but only have themselves to blame for some early hiccups to their initial matches in the campaign. But, if anyone can sneak off with a win in the heavens of La Paz, it's Ecuador, whose players are accustomed to the rigors of high altitude. A win for Ecuador, coupled with an Argentina loss, could put them in fourth place.

URUGUAY v. COLOMBIA, 5pm ET

Uruguay has qualified for the World Cup once in the past four tournaments. On Saturday, they controlled their own destiny and failed when they fell to bottom-feeders Peru 1-0 in Lima, mostly on missed chances, overconfidence and eventual frustration and panic. The Charruas now host a resurgent Colombian side in what should be an epic contest to fans except maybe for many Uruguayan fans themselves whose fading support has led the Uruguayan federation to implement a two-for-one ticket deal in order to pack the famed Centenario.

PARAGUAY v. ARGENTINA, 7pm ET

Most of the world already saw the Albicelestes' 3-1 home loss to rivals Brazil and most of the world will keep tabs on their fate Wednesday when they travel to Paraguay, whose own recent lackluster results have luckily been offset by a strong start to its qualifying campaign. One of the last few matches that Maradona played prior to USA '94 was a playoff series against Australia which they won 2-1. Is another playoff looming for Maradona? Or will he get the axe before then should Argentina suffer another loss?

BRAZIL v. CHILE, 9pm ET

Sure, the Brazilians are in but manager Dunga wants to keep his boys' feet on the ground, especially against one of the hottest teams in the region, a Chile squad managed by none other than the Argentine master, Marcelo 'El Loco' Bielsa. Will a matter of national pride weigh on Bielsa's mind, following Brazil's win in his homeland? For Brazil, taking six points from the likes of Argentina and Chile would only solidify their power further entering the final two rounds of qualifying.

VENEZUELA v. PERU, 9pm ET

The Vinotinto are threatening more and more every cycle. They've never qualified for the World Cup on a senior level but have improved dramatically and the fact that they're still in contention with three rounds left is a sign of the times in South American soccer. Venezuela took a valuable point in Santiago on Saturday in what was supposed to be Chile's official qualification victory party. The Vinotinto are much alive although their last two matches are against Paraguay and Brazil.

What do you think of South American qualifying? Will Argentina fail to make the World Cup? Who has the tenacity to grab that final playoff spot?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. “Their federation keeps making steady progress.”

    CONMEBOL is the best in the world. As evidenced by Argentina’s current struggle, every CONMEBOL game counts. Every nation that comes out of this will be more than prepared for the World Cup; you can’t say the same for UEFA teams.

    c’mon Colombia! and yes, I am a Colombiano who wants Argentina to make it too. who doesn’t wanna see Messi play?

    i think Brazil is gonna play their 2nd string = 1st string for every other nation. insane depth.

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  2. I agree with Tony. My family is from Peru and I know Ives is Peruvian and it hurts that Peru is in this mess.

    You didn’t even mention thier young players that are playing in Europe too Tony. Maybe 2014.

    Good article.

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  3. No way Argentina doesn’t qualify. I think they’ll win big tonight. Even if they finish 5th, they’ll certainly take it to which ever CONCACAF team they play.

    Of all the countries in SA, I think Peru is the most disappointing. With quality players like Pizarro, Farfan, Acasiete, Solano, Zambrano, Vargas, and of course Guerrero, it’s amazing that this team is in last place. This should have been their year.

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  4. I was watching Ghana vs Japan this morning. I know they played 3 nights ago and had to fly all the way to Netherland but Ghana was anything but impressive. They are so unorganized, indiciplined, and mistake prone. They rely way too much on Essien and Muntari. If Japan was a good team, Ghana would have got spanked.

    I see Argentina beating Costa Rica in the playoff to clich the berth.

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  5. Very exciting. What can be more thrilling and nail biting than watching a world powerhouse like Argentina fighting for a spot in the most coveted sporting event in the world. Argentinians won’t have much hair left at the end of the day. Hopefully they will be celebrating rather than offing themselves.

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  6. If Venezuela can win at home against Peru and Paraguay, 24 pts. will give them a decent chance at 5th.

    A draw in the final game at Brazil would give them 25 pts, and an even better chance.

    Venezuela owns the head-to-head tiebreaker vs. Ecuador, as well.

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  7. %100 agree Dman. I’d love to see a team from North America, Africa, or Asia break through and lift the trophy (especially the U.S.) But Brazil is just sooooooo good. They’ve walked through qualifying in arguably the world’s toughest region.

    But Ghana has been pretty impressive. 2010 could be the most exciting event we’ve seen in a long time.

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  8. I can’t imagine a World Cup without Argentina. I just don’t see it happening.

    Brazil has been scary dominant all through qualifying. I think they have to be considered favorites right now to win in 2010.

    Posted by: Cobi Jones is the best soccer player ever | September 09, 2009 at 08:49 AM

    I hope they don’t win it, I actually want to see a new team lift the trophy. I think it’d be cool to see Ghana or the Ivory Coast win it but obviously the coolest would be the US.

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  9. I don’t think Argentina is in nearly as much hot water as everyone seems to think. They’ll get through – win, lose or tie tonight.

    As for Paraguay, they’ve lost their fantastic form they used to build up a big cushion through the first half of qualifying – and a lot of that coincides with the absence of Roque Santa Cruz. Cabanas has filled the scoring shoes pretty well, but Santa Cruz is Paraguay’s world class player and seems to bring them a ton of confidence.

    Argentina always has a tough time in Asuncion and Paraguay will be able to sit back and rely on the hardest working defense in the world, and then counter as the Argys get frustrated.

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  10. I can’t imagine a World Cup without Argentina. I just don’t see it happening.

    Brazil has been scary dominant all through qualifying. I think they have to be considered favorites right now to win in 2010.

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  11. on a side note,

    how come every major media outlet I read that the US is closing in on qualifying as if they’ve already clinched?

    As huge of a supporter of the USMNT I am we have to win 2 away games in a row to clinch. I’m a very half glass empty type of person and didn’t think we’d do as well in the Confed Cup but it’s a daunting task we have ahead of us and well if the worst occurs it’s going to be horrible for soccer in the US.

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  12. “A wounded Argentina, a reignited Colombia, a desperate Ecuador, a shocked Uruguay and a nervous Venezuela” Very well put Ives, excellent said…I’d like to see Ecuador qualify, they have top class players, and like you said, this would be their 3rd straight world cup. Their federation keeps making steady progress.

    Reply

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